Jazz Drummer’s Workshop

Unison Exercises

by Ed Soph

Unison practice is an excellent way to determine the rhythmic precision of the four appendages. The weaker the particular hand or foot, the less precision. Right-handed drummers will find that unison practice will help overcome the dependency of right hand and right foot. Left-handed players will find help in overcoming left hand/left foot dependency. Also, unison practice may help the player develop rhythms along chordal lines rather than strictly linear ones. 


To play notes/rhythms together, the appendages must play the same strokes—in time. Strokes in time produce notes/ rhythms in time. The attacks of the appendages must also be the same. One should not play the bass drum as though he were trying to drive the beater through the head if he plays “off” the upper drums using rebounded strokes. Play the bass drum with rebounded strokes. Strive for a dynamic blend: all appendages playing at the same dynamic level so as to make the set sound like one instrument.

The exercises are to be played in the following steps:

I. Pattern played on the snare with ride pattern and hi-hat on 2 and 4.
jazz-drummers-workshop-1II. Pattern played on the bass drum with the ride pattern and hi-hat pattern.

III. Unison pattern: snare and bass pattern in unison with ride pattern, hi-hat.

IV. Unison snare and hi-hat with the ride pattern.

V. Unison bass drum and hi-hat with ride pattern.

VI. Unison snare, bass, and hi-hat with ride pattern.

VII. Unison snare, bass, hi-hat, and ride playing the figure.

The Foundation Figure is:


Apply the seven steps.
The basic figures derived from the Foundation Figure are-

Apply the seven steps to these figures.

Practice these figures with the smallest strokes possible and the largest strokes which you have at your disposal. This will delineate the dynamic framework within which you ought to practice. Once you feel comfortable with the dynamic extremes of soft (small strokes) and loud (maximum strokes), fill in the framework with dynamic patterns within a definite phrase length. For example, play the patterns within a four bar phrase, beginning with your smallest stroke and graduating to your largest;



Other dynamic patterns for practice